December’s not about heartache and exile. It’s merely
a month. And that one there is a lone woman travelling
down a sloping road, clutching her baby close.
A sooty dusk creeps across the steep walls of
a striated yellow sky. Somebody’s burning leaves
flung down by tired trees in the broken boulevards,
beneath this wan December’s gaze by the sea. This is a city
that revolves around old fisher folk’s songs, and
its ancient beaches change colour every time
its torso is torn apart. This city has never been bitten
by a Himalayan winter’s blood freezing fangs. It has never
known the beauty of a day stilled by snow. So now it stares,
mesmerised by the woman’s audacity, her sudden
and preternatural dreaming of a far removed December.
A child has fallen asleep upon the gas tank
of his grandfather’s motorcycle, now carelessly rolling
down the road. The woman becomes frantic and flails
her pale chrysanthemum hands. Anything or nothing at all
can happen in this untidily magical city, whose street
dogs lie on walkways like molested centipedes, and
whose squirrels laugh back from electric poles. Whose December
carries neither whiplash nor pitchfork. But turns its parrots
into true motorcyclists, riding out their querulous dares
across a sky that desperately tries to keep its sanity afloat
amidst all the metallic objects puncturing its rind. Instead
it ends up succumbing to torrents of grief. The farmers
weep. Sometimes with joy and sometimes because
that is all there is left to do when the water rises in December.
Who knows why sorrow parts its lips or why no one has gathered
for the wake. The reek of asafoetida lingers upon unwilling nostrils
long after the spice lane is past. This precipitous road spills
over with the bad tempers of a despairing people returning home
like the driven snow. And the woman hugs her baby tighter. Believing
that her love alone has the power to barricade all danger. That
her heart has blood enough to wash the entire horizon red. And,
that destiny cannot cheat her. Such is the daring of her faith.
Such is the keening within her heart as she stoically rides
an eccentric three-wheeled machine towards the house
where she has built her nest for now. Even though she knows it
for what it is – just another move in another city. But one where
the nights never descend with the stealth of cold. And winter neither lives
nor dies. Unlike the winter of her past. Those deep days of her native December.
"December Poem" is from A City at the Equator’s Edge, a work in progress.
Shikhandin is the nom de plume of an award-winning Indian writer, who writes for both adults and children. Books include among others, Immoderate Men: Stories published by Speaking Tiger, India and Vibhuti Cat an illustrated book for children, published by Duckbill. For more on Shikhandin you can visit her Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/author/shikhandin and her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorShikhandin/